Kansas Cannons baseball wins weather-shortened game over Liberal Bee Jay's
AUGUSTA – The first time the Kansas Curve played the Kansas Cannons, the game didn’t get out of the third inning before a heavy rain called a halt with the Cannons leading, 4-1.
The teams met again Thursday night, and Mother Nature again intervened, as lightning delays caused the game to end with two out in the Cannons seventh and the Cannons again ahead, 2-1.
The first lightning delay came at 8:50, then subsequent flashes moved back the restart time. By rule, a lightning-delay inning cannot start after 10 p.m., so the game was called at 9:31 with lightning flashing to the south of Rodney Wheeler Stadium.
As in Wednesday night’s game against Liberal, the Cannons (17-8) were held scoreless in all but one inning. But like Wednesday, the runs they scored proved to be just enough. Center fielder Paul Schoenfeld was the hero in Wednesday’s’ 2-1 triumph over Liberal, going 3 for 3 with a walk. First baseman Stevenson Reynolds duplicated that feat Thursday against the Curve.
“Stevie took a hot streak (Thursday),” Cannons coach Dusty Gray said. “As good a hitter as these guys are, you never know just who is going to catch fire.”
Reynolds said the Cannons’ bats are coming around.
“We’re just trying to work on our approach up the middle and try to catch a barrel,” he said.
The Curve (10-14) are scheduled to get another shot at the Cannons on July 24 in Augusta.
But Thursday, they were again stifled by the conditions.
Right-handers Cason Long of the Curve and Connor Hart of the Cannons were locked in a pitching battle. In fact, pitchers dominated the game, limiting the Curve to four hits and the Cannons to seven.
The Curve struck first, as first baseman Gunnar Hutson, a Circle High graduate now at Pratt Community College, was hit by a Hart pitch for a second straight time in the third. Shortstop Zach Chonkich worked the count to 2-0 and belted a homer to left for a 2-0 lead.
Long had held the Cannons to one hit through the first three innings, striking out five. He finished with seven strikeouts in six innings.
But in the fourth, the Cannons erased the deficit and took the lead for good. Reynolds opened with a double. One out later, second baseman Ethan Ezor walked, and shortstop Carsen Pracht singled in Reynolds. Ezor scored the tying run, and Pracht the go-ahead run, on Carson Shively’s double. Long managed to get out of trouble after that.
When the lightning delay was called, the Cannons had loaded the bases on Curve relievers Justin Dunlap and Hayden Baumwart with two out in the seventh.
Hart, who attends Angelo (Texas) State and stands 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds, escaped jams frequently. In his seven innings of work, he only got the Curve in order in the seventh inning. But he only gave up four hits and the two runs in that time.
“Connor did very well,” Gray said.
He got help from his teammates. In the fourth, Justin Ricketts led off for the Curve and sent a hard grounder to the right side. Reynolds made a diving stop and flipped to Hart just in time to beat Ricketts.
“It felt good,” Hart said. “I just have cut down on the walks and the hit-by-pitches. It’s really nice having a good infield like we do. I got a lot of ground balls, and that felt really good.”
In the fifth, Hart walked Chonkich to lead off the inning, but designated hitter Liam Pollock followed with a 5-4-3 double play to erase the threat.
Afterward, Gray said getting the victory was worth the 41-minute wait.
“They still count,” he said. “Eventually, we’re going to get a full one in with these guys. We’ll take the ‘W’ any way we can get them.”
The Cannons will complete the brief three-game homestand Friday night, this time against a team from their own division, the Wellington Heat (13-11), who trail the Cannons by three games in the Walter Johnson Division standings. The Curve will be at Park City – 1 ½ games behind the Cannons – the next two days.
Cannons right fielder Cale Blasi, who was struck in the throat by a ball he fouled off Wednesday night, had the day off Thursday but is scheduled to return Friday against Wellington.
“He’ll be 100 percent (Friday) and ready to rock it,” Gray said.